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Want to Go Commercial? Here's One Way to Start - ResidentialSystems.com

Want to Go Commercial? Here's One Way to Start

If you’ve been toying around with the idea of getting into commercial installations but weren’t sure where to start, SnapAV is ready to help.
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If you’ve been toying around with the idea of getting into commercial installations but weren’t sure where to start, SnapAV is ready to help.

Launched way back in 2012, SnapAV’s commercial website has a little-publicized section called Engineered Solutions containing complete documentation for conference rooms, video surveillance, and AV distribution. The site includes line diagrams (PDF, CAD, and Visio files), a complete bill of materials (BOM), and the ability to customize and save it for future use.

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I don’t know about you, but we could’ve used something like this when we started in the residential business. Using SnapAV’s Engineered Solutions as a starter kit could see you through your first few commercial jobs. Figure out what works, what doesn’t, and modify for your own tastes. Of course, all of the solutions are designed with SnapAV’s products, but the documentation works just as well with non-SnapAV products. SnapAV’s mission here is to educate and be a part of the project in some way, shape, or form. They know you’ll be back to buy soon enough.

Once you have your BOM together, SnapAV has a section called Profit Comparisons, which helps illustrate what systems might work best in typical scenarios like restaurants, bars, retail, fitness, business, and houses of worship. Again, once you get past the SnapAV propaganda, there’s a treasure trove of information about what solutions to lead with and where to start. Having a document like this could’ve saved us a lot of wasted conversations with convenience store owners looking to have us install $400 16-camera systems from Costco. Just like residential, commercial has its fair share of time-vampire customers—the kind who will waste half your day and never do any profitable business with you.

We decided to take the site for a test drive in a real-world scenario. We have a retail store client (a referral from our residential business) who asked us for some video surveillance, audio, and a security system for their store. Using SnapAV’s Hair House retail example from the Profit Comparisons section, we quickly pulled together a four-camera video surveillance system along with a six-speaker, 70-volt distributed audio system. From there, we made a few tweaks to the BOM and dumped it into our normal proposal software. We added a basic Nortek security system with Alarm.com subscription and Sonos Connect as an audio source. We then checked our gross margin and labor hours to make sure we had enough time to get the job done quickly. The final result yielded a job with more than 40 points of gross profit (our lower threshold). The entire process took less than 15 minutes.

Our colleagues in other markets routinely tell us they are making 30 points gross profit in commercial and 40-plus points in residential. If your organization is primarily residential and you decide to add commercial jobs, be careful with the jobs you take on. IP video surveillance seems to be the highest margin category in commercial right now. Other considerations include organizational and cultural impact. Will you train your installers in the commercial products you’re asking them to install or just throw them into the field and hope for the best? Please train your people. Call your vendors—a great rep will come and train your people for you. Leverage those relationships.

The integrators I know who do a lot of work in both residential and commercial tend to divide the two market segments into separate installation crews and overall workflow. If you’re just getting started in the commercial space, that may seem like a long way off, but it helps to have a point on the horizon to vector toward. If you’re watching our trade publications, you realize that commercial integration work is big business with companies like AVI-SPL and Whitlock generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year. There’s room below their radar and above yours. Take advantage of that void and add to your bottom line.

Stay frosty and see you in the field.

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